London: Protesters demonstrate outside Guardian offices over transphobic Burchill article

From Pink News:

18 January 2013

A protest took place outside the Guardian and Observer offices on Thursday, at which over 100 transgender people and cisgender allies gathered to demand an apology from its owners over the publication of a transphobic article by Julie Burchill.

The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) is now to launch an inquiry into the Observer’s decision to print last Sunday’s article. Martha Dunkley, from the group TransLondon, said: “The Burchill piece was a deliberate baiting. It was straight forward, transphobic hate speech for which, had she been targeting another group, she would have been arrested. It threw us back into the days when we could be the objects of violence and ridicule with impunity.”

Ahead of the protest, organiser, Kai Weston, said: ”The reasons for this protest, whilst triggered by Burchill’s recent transphobic article in the Observer form part of a wider picture in which trans people are frequently seen as legitimate targets by media outlets. All too often we see trans people being used a cheap comic devices, or having their identities dragged through the papers.

“For those within society who have never had extended interaction with a trans person, the media may form their sole source of information. Given that violence and discrimination against the trans community is rife within society, I feel let down when a supposedly progressive paper publishes a piece which amounts to nothing more than an outright transphobic hate speech.

Kai Weston added: “Unfortunately, this is not the first time that the Guardian Media Group has published a transphobic article, and on each occasion the issue has been addressed with a rebuttal from a trans commentator, and then swiftly brushed beneath the carpet.

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Why Feminism Can’t Afford To Ignore Transgender Women

From Buzzfeed:

“I often feel failed by feminism,” says a trans activist. It’s about autonomy.

Anna North
January 18, 2013

The British feminist Julie Burchill this week accused transgender activists of being interlopers who “have your cock cut off and then plead special privileges as women,” prompting a backlash so fierce that London’s Observer newspaper removed the piece from the web.

But while Burchill cast trans women as a threat to feminism, the real threat is attitudes like hers, which could weaken the entire movement.

A subset of radical, essentialist feminists have for decades believed that transgender people are merely deluded or mentally ill for decades. Germaine Greer, whose The Female Eunuch electrified the movement in 1970, complained in 2009 that “other delusions may be challenged, but not a man’s delusion that he is female.” Sheila Jeffreys, an Australian feminist who has long criticized sex reassignment surgery, told BuzzFeed Shift that “being a woman is not a matter of gender identity. It’s not a matter of what’s in the head.” To her, womanhood comes from being born in a female body “and experiencing the harms of being a woman in a patriarchal society.”

Their views would mean less if feminism were simply a niche movement for a certain subset of women with particular views on biology and identity. But it has come to stand for gender justice in general — and, crucially, for bodily self-determination. It can’t do that with any legitimacy if it tries to keep trans women out.

“I often feel failed by feminism,” says writer and trans advocate Janet Mock. She adds, “Any woman’s right to self-identify is a personal freedom I fight for, and those women who claim trans women are not women are perpetuators of gender-based oppression, and all feminists should be upset and moved to action against this.”

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Julie Burchill’s ‘Transsexuals’ Article Is a Triumph for Liberal Hypocrisy

From Huffington Post:

By David Gazet

When I read the title of Julie Burchill’s recent article – “Transsexuals Should Cut It Out”, now removed by the Observer – I couldn’t help but expect a great deal of self indulgent, vitriolic drivel. Burchill certainly delivered, and more, with a tour de force of self righteous indignation spiced with a healthy dose of bigotry. It was enough to make me want to check my local sun dial to make sure that this really is in fact the 21st century. You might wonder amidst this ringing endorsement what it is exactly that transsexuals should cut out? Being transsexual? Lobbying for recognition and social awareness? For even having the temerity to want to be recognised by a precious, elitist little feminist clique? Burchill herself certainly doesn’t seem to know.

In the space of a few succinct paragraphs Burchill launches a series of savage and calculated attacks on transsexual lobbyists, and implicitly, all the wider transsexual community (or, as she likes to call them “a bunch of dicks in chicks clothing”.) Whilst some might argue that using offensive language in a rebuttal against bullying is like sponsoring a dolphin protection charity whilst dining on a fillet of flipper, Burchill cheerfully goosesteps to the defence of Suzanne Moore, a woman who was recently routed from Twitter after stating in an article that women were angry about “not having the ideal body shape, that of a Brazilian transsexual”.

Aside from the rather dubious reasoning in insulting an entire community because of the reactionary (whether justified or not) behaviour of some individuals on Twitter, Burchill is actually quite elegant in her dismantlement of the “vociferous transsexual lobby and their grim groupies”. Shame her understanding of such communities amounts to a gross misrepresentation. Even basic information like the meaning behind slang such as ‘cis’ (a Latin prefix meaning on the same side) or the basic mental leap to realise that the trans community encompasses huge variety of individuals and not just “bed-wetters in bad wigs” (though it could have been discovered with five minutes of research on Google). It is understandable though, basic journalism must never get in the way of steamrolling your opponents in the name of “natural-born women”.

Perhaps the most depressing aspect of the whole controversy is how illustrative it is of the wider cracking of the beguiling façade of liberalism, what Tim Stanley describes as “different political classes of minorities who compete with each other for the title of most oppressed.” Burchill, in a rare moment of clarity, actually says something to this effect, in how much easier it is for the lobbyists to “lash out” rather than deal with the “real enemy.” A pity then that she cannot refrain from doing the same. After all, “natural-born” or not, gender inequality across the world remains a pressing problem, with a recent flash survey indicating that violence against women is still the most important form of inequality in the European Union.

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Transforming healthcare

From The Dallas Voice:

LGBT advocates in Dallas, Fort Worth push for cities to provide comprehensive insurance coverage to transgender employees

18 Jan 2013

When Dallas police officer Debbie Grabowski transitioned six years ago, she paid for the $90,000 in surgical procedures out of her own pocket because the city’s health insurance didn’t cover gender reassignment surgery.

Officials say the city’s coverage includes everything except the surgery, including hormone replacement therapy, but Grabowski said the plan doesn’t currently cover her hormones — and never has.

“It hasn’t changed,” she said of the city’s healthcare coverage. “If it did change, I’m not aware of it.”

Grabowski also said her gender marker hasn’t been corrected in the city’s directory despite several attempts to get it changed from male to female. She’s also put off getting male wellness checkups because she doesn’t think they’d be covered.

If the city had covered her surgeries, Grabowski said it would’ve helped immensely.

The issue is even worse in Fort Worth because Cowtown’s insurance plan specifically excludes everything related to transgender care.

Transgender-inclusive healthcare is rare among cities nationwide, with only five out of 137 cities ranked in the new Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index listed as having the coverage — San Francisco, Minneapolis, New York, Portland and Seattle. But more and more cities and private companies have started offering the coverage since San Francisco became the first U.S. city to cover gender reassignment surgery for its employees in 2001.

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Victory For Transgender Privacy: TSA Abandons ‘Nude’ Body Scanners

From Think Progress:

By Zack Ford
on Jan 18, 2013

In what is an important victory for the transgender community, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration has announced it will remove all body scanners that show nearly nude images from airports. The TSA had already removed 76 of the machines and will now remove the remaining 174, though they may still be used in other government offices where privacy is not a concern like it is in airports. Congress had set a deadline for OSI Systems to develop software for the scanners to produce generic passenger images instead of the the nearly nude images, but the company was unable to meet the timeline. Scanners produced by other companies that have managed to adjust the software will continue to be used.

The invasion of privacy caused by the machine was particularly invasive for transgender people, who were considered suspicious if their genitalia did not match their presentation. Even the software change utilized by the remaining body scanners, which are manufactured by L-3, use “blue” and “pink” indicators for gender that can still cause confusion (and thus concern) for trans passengers. As a result, they can be disproportionately selected for invasive pat downs.

The TSA is planning to expand its PreCheck program, in which passengers share more personal data before arriving at the airport but can then go through metal detectors instead of body scanners.

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From Stonewall to Homeless: The Plight of Our Elder LGBT Members

From The Huffington Post:


2012 saw a number of momentous victories in LGBT history. We saw another victory for the first president of the United States to campaign openly and often on the issue of LGBT equality. The first out elected U.S. senator, Tammy Baldwin, was sworn into office, along with the largest-ever delegation of out Congress members. And, it’s likely that President Obama will nominate the first out cabinet member, as well as introduce a landslide of equality initiatives. Throughout the nation, more openly gay state and city officials were elected than ever before. The Supreme Court agreed to hear debates on marriage equality. Pretty impressive, right?

Contrast all this with a conversation I had with Dina, a member of the greater Philadelphia LGBT community. She told me that as she and her partner of 30 years near retirement age, they face the real possibility of homelessness. Both women have worked their whole lives but never made enough to save for retirement. Both volunteered their time caring for those in shelters and hospices but, now that they are in need of the very care they provided, where do they turn?

Or Donald, who’s 62, a former teacher and long-time activist in the local LGBT community. Living on Social Security disability for the past 20 years, his arthritis and neuropathy make living alone in a third-floor Philadelphia walk-up — his only affordable option — more difficult by the day. This is Donald’s community; why shouldn’t he be able to live here with dignity in his golden years?

What does the future hold for our elder community? What do you know about them? We know much about youth and bullying issues, much about our LGBT people in military uniform, much about those of you who wish to marry and have families. But what about our elders? Chances are, you know very little and that is a sign that as a community we have not had their interests and needs on our agenda.

In 1969, we changed history at the Stonewall Riots, which is often used as a defining point in our struggle for equality. Those young activists are now pushing retirement age. When I ask the LGBT members of groups I’m speaking to, “How many of you are out to members of your family and friends?”, almost all proudly put their arms in the air. In 1969, only about one percent of our community would have put their arms in the air.

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Happy Internet Freedom Day!

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What the FBI Doesn’t Want You To Know About Its “Secret” Surveillance Techniques

From The Electronic Frontier Foundation:

By Parker Higgins and Trevor Timm
January 17, 2013

The FBI had to rewrite the book on its domestic surveillance activities in the wake of last January’s landmark Supreme Court decision in United States v. Jones. In Jones, a unanimous court held that federal agents must get a warrant to attach a GPS device to a car to track a suspect for long periods of time. But if you want to see the two memos describing how the FBI has reacted to Jones — and the new surveillance techniques the FBI is using beyond GPS trackers — you’re out of luck. The FBI says that information is “private and confidential.”

Yes, now that the Supreme Court ruled the government must get a warrant to use its previous go-to surveillance technique, it has now apparently decided that it’s easier to just keep everything secret. The ACLU requested the memos under the Freedom of Information Act — which you can see FBI General Counsel Andrew Weissmann waving around in public here — and the FBI redacted them almost entirely.

Though the FBI won’t release the memos, we do have some information from other sources on the surveillance techniques federal agents are already using. And for the most part the FBI contends they do not need a warrant, and one wonders, given the public nature of this information, why they are officially claiming its “secret.”

Cell Phone Data Requests

Tellingly, in U.S. v. Jones, after the US government lost its case in the Supreme Court with the GPS device, it went right back to the district court and asserted it could get Jones’ cell phone site location data without a warrant. EFF has long argued cell location data, which can map your precise location for days or weeks at a time, is highly personal, and should require a warrant from a judge.

In July 2012, the New York Times reported that federal, state, and local law enforcement officials had requested all kinds of cell phone data, including mappings of suspects’ locations, a staggering 1.3 million times in the previous year. Worse, the real number was “almost certainly much higher” given they often request multiple people’s data with one request. The FBI also employs highly controversial “tower dumps” where they get the location information on everyone within a particular radius, potentially violating the privacy of thousands of innocent people with one request.

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New Study Highlights Threat From Far Right-Wing Groups In U.S.

From Think Progress:

By Hayes Brown
on Jan 18, 2013

A new study from a think tank connected to the West Point Military Academy highlights the threat of violent far-right movements in the United States, leading to the conclusion that, while diverse in in their causes, they are similar in their use of violence to achieve their aims.

West Point’s Combatting Terrorism Center was founded in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, and has primarily focused its research on international terrorist threats. Titled “Challengers from the Sidelines: Understanding America’s Violent Far-Right,” this new report instead looks as the risk that domestic groups pose to the U.S. Breaking down these groups into three categories — the Racist/White Supremacy Movement, the Anti-Federalist Movement, and the Christian Fundamentalist Movement — allows the study to examine the background ideologies and methods of each subset thoroughly, opposed to lumping them all together as most studies have.

Each of the groupings in the study represent competing ideological views, with none of them likely to cooperate in achieving their aims. The chances that each of these groups will use violence also varies. What they share, however, is a use of violence against their chosen targets — be it minority races or abortion clinics — to draw attention to and emphasize their given ideology. After charting out the various instances of violence carried out by each of the categories, the paper offers up several policy recommendations on responding to their actions:

From a theoretical perspective, this constitutes a further indication of the perception among some parts of the academic community that terrorism is an instrument of symbolic discourse which is shared by violent groups and their adversaries. Target selection is thus not based just on operational considerations, but is one component, among others, which allows violent groups to shape their message using violent practices—timing, weapons used and target locations, are only a small measure of the other components which contribute to the shape of the symbolic message conveyed via the attack.

In this context, policy implications are clear. If the numerous far right groups are driven by different ideological sentiments, and are thus also engaged in distinguishing tactics, then the response in terms of counterterrorism policies must be flexible and group/movement oriented.

The study is already coming under attack by Republicans for not properly defining what constitutes a member of the “far right.”

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Another Word for Propaganda

From Truth Dig:

By Robert Scheer
Jan 18, 2013

Why aren’t film director Kathryn Bigelow’s claimed government sources, including employees of the CIA, in jail like Pfc. Bradley Manning? Or, at the very least, being investigated for their role in one of the most damaging leaks of national security information in U.S. history?

How did the Japanese-owned Sony Corporation that released Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty” gain access to information on the 10-year hunt for Osama bin Laden, so highly classified that it was denied to the official 9/11 Commission that investigated the terrorist attacks? The opening frame of the movie states the crime, clearly claiming that “Zero” is “based on firsthand accounts of actual events.”

Those “actual events,” constituting the tenacious search for the country’s most- wanted terrorist, are matters of such carefully guarded secrecy that even the 10 members of the 9/11 Commission, all possessing the highest level of access, were forbidden to interview anyone with “firsthand” knowledge. The commission, which was created by President George W. Bush and Congress in 2002 and in 2004 released the only official public U.S. government examination of 9/11, was explicitly banned from any contact with the “key witnesses.”

That 585-page report concedes in a boxed disclaimer on page 146 that the commissioners were denied the access that Bigelow claims to have had to the torturers and the tortured in developing the narrative outlined in two key chapters of the report:

Chapters 5 and 7 rely heavily on information obtained from captured al Qaeda members. A number of these ‘detainees’ have firsthand knowledge of the 9/11 plot.

Assessing the truth of statements by these witnesses—sworn enemies of the United States—is challenging. Our access to them has been limited to the review of intelligence reports based on communications received from the locations where the actual interrogations take place. We submitted questions for use in the interrogations, but had no control over whether, when, or how questions of particular interest would be asked. Nor were we allowed to talk to the interrogators so that we could better judge the credibility of the detainees and clarify ambiguities in the reporting. We were told that our requests might disrupt the sensitive interrogation process.

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Judge limits Manning’s whistle-blower defense, pretrial confinement nears 1,000 days

From The Bradley Manning Support Group:

After partially granting the government’s motion to preclude motive from the trial, Judge Lind heard arguments from both parties for the defense’s motion to dismiss for lack of a speedy trial. Today is Bradley Manning’s 964th day in jail without trial. Manning returns to court February 26, 2013.

By Nathan Fuller, Bradley Manning Support Network.
January 16, 2013

Military Judge Denise Lind ruled that PFC Bradley Manning will be able to show evidence of his noble motives at potential sentencing; however, during the merits portion of the trial, to decide guilt or innocence, the defense’s abilities are very narrow. Then, she ruled, the defense will only be able to discuss Manning’s motive to show that he didn’t know giving information to WikiLeaks meant he was “dealing with the enemy.” This limits the defense’s ability to prove Manning was a whistle-blower when countering the government’s harshest charge, ‘aiding the enemy,’ which carries a life sentence.

Judge Lind deferred a ruling on whether the defense would be allowed to present evidence of overclassification to dispute the ‘aiding the enemy’ charge.

Following those announcements, both parties argued for the defense’s motion to dismiss charges based on a lack of a speedy trial. On Manning’s 964th day in prison awaiting trial, government prosecutors attempted to justify the extensive delays, contending that they were duly diligent and that the scope and complexity of the case necessitate a lengthy pretrial confinement.

Defense lawyer David Coombs followed, arguing that the government has violated Manning’s right to a speedy trial as afforded by the U.S. constitution, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and the Rules for Court Martial. Under RCM 707, the government has 120 days from arrest to arraign a detainee. Prosecutors took more than 600 days to arraign Manning, but their delays have been excluded by the court-martial Convening Authority, Col. Carl Coffman. But the defense argues Col. Coffman, who’s legally bound to make an independent determination on whether the delays the government requests are reasonable, was essentially a rubber stamp, signing off on one government request after another without urging prosecutors to speed their progress.

Furthermore, the defense says prosecutors waited months and months for government agencies to complete classification reviews of documents Manning’s accused of leaking, and should have proceeded with Manning’s Article 32 pretrial hearing with the evidence it already had.

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Whole Foods – Now Serving Food & Fascism

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Wolf killings are based on the most cynical of premises

From The Guardian UK:

Governments in Russia, Canada and Scandinavia claim they need to protect lesser species and habitats – while continuing their smash and grab raid on natural resources

Friday 18 January 2013

If, as she has threatened, Brigitte Bardot moves to Russia in protest at the treatment of animals in France, she’s in for a major shock.

A couple of weeks ago, the former actress warned that if two circus elephants thought to be carrying tuberculosis are killed as a result of a ruling by a French court, she will follow Gérard Depardieu by applying for a Russian passport:

“If those in power are cowardly and impudent enough to kill the elephants … then I have decided I will ask for Russian nationality to get out of this country which has become nothing more than an animal cemetery”.

As a general principle, I think anyone who threatens to move to another country if they don’t get their way should be obliged to do so. This, for example, would rid the United Kingdom of some of its greediest and most demanding bankers who, despite their promises, are still here. And Tracey Emin.

But if Bardot does move to Russia, which I reckon is about as likely as Vladimir Putin being elected to the board of Amnesty International, she’ll find that France’s record on the treatment and protection of animals, while often brutal, is almost exemplary by comparison to her adopted country’s. Take for example the decree on Tuesday by the president of the Sakha Republic (also known as Yakutia) in Siberia.

There are 3,500 wolves in Sakha, which sounds like a lot until you discover that the republic is the size of India. President Yegor Borisov wants to reduce the population to 500 through an intensive three-month hunt, supported by a state of emergency, bounties for every wolf shot and a prize of 1m roubles for the hunters who kill the most.

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Farewell, Obama’s “Green Dream Team”

From Mother Jones:

By Fri Jan. 18, 2013

Another member of President Barack Obama’s cabinet is on his way out the door. On Thursday night, Bloomberg News reported that Energy Secretary Steven Chu is planning to leave the Obama administration. The Nobel Prize winner plans to announce his intentions next week, according to sources “familiar with the matter.”

Chu came to Washington from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, where he served as director. He’s a nerd’s nerd—a guy who does physics problems for fun and continued to bike to work in Washington (at least when the Secret Service would allow him to). He has been an advocate of a better energy policy and expanded government investment in research and development in his post at the department. But he often found himself stymied by the politics and bureaucracy of Washington, as The New Republic chronicled last year. He also found himself on the hot seat when the solar company Solyndra went bankrupt shortly after receiving a $528 million loan guarantee from the DOE.

With Chu’s departure, there will be only one person left from Obama’s original “Green Dream Team,” a term environmental groups endowed upon the president’s appointees to key departments. Green jobs guru Van Jones is long gone. Climate “czar” Carol Browner resigned two years ago, and the special post created for her was dissolved a few months later. Jane Lubchenco, the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, has said she plans to depart in February. EPA head Lisa Jackson also announced her plans to leave the agency at the end of December. And earlier this week, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar signaled that he, too, is signing off. Meanwhile, the change of leadership at the State Department—with John Kerry likely taking over for Hillary Clinton—is expected to shape our international climate policy as well as key decisions like the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline.

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BP’s Big Plan: Burn It. Burn It All.

From Common Dreams:

Showing no concern for climate, CEO of oil giant says notions of Peak Oil are ‘increasingly groundless’

Jon Queally, staff writer
Published on Thursday, January 17, 2013 by Common Dreams

Ignoring overtly and by design the dire and repeated warnings of scientists who say that in order to avoid catastrophic and irreversible changes to the world’s climate we must drastically reduce carbon emissions by curbing our use of fossil fuels, BP has a different plan for the next two decades which translates to this: Burn it. Burn whatever we can find.

Amid release of its annual Energy Outlook Report, BP’s chief executive Bob Dudley says that a surge in unconventional carbon fuel extraction should be heralded, not challenged.

“The Outlook shows the degree to which once-accepted wisdom has been turned on its head,” Dudley said in the statement. “Fears over oil running out — to which BP has never subscribed — appear increasingly groundless.”

Focusing on shale oil and other hard-to-reach fuels and citing “favourable regulatory terms” in North American countries (namely the US and Canada) for current profit growth, BP plans says that it now hopes less developed countries “will succeed” in paving a path for more unconventional fuel extraction in the coming years. BP’s plan says that its global oil extraction could increase over the next two decades.

But the result, as The Guardian‘s Fiona Harvey points out, is that

carbon dioxide emissions will rise by more than a quarter by 2030 – a disaster, according to scientists, because if the world is to avoid dangerous climate change then studies suggest emissions must peak in the next three years or so.

So-called unconventional oil – shale oil, tar sands and biofuels – are the most controversial forms of the fuel, because they are much more carbon-intensive than conventional oilfields. They require large amounts of energy and water, and have been associated with serious environmental damages.

Dudley’s comments—and the Outlook report itself—shows the chasm that exists between what the world’s largest oil companies are preparing to do and what climate scientists are calling for with increasing urgency.

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Fracking debate draws Yoko, Lennon and Sarandon to rural battlegrounds

From The Guardian UK:

Artists Against Fracking board bus for magical mystery tour of Pennsylvania as New York and New Jersey decisions draw near

in Dimock, Pennsylvania, Friday 18 January 2013

Yoko Ono might not seem the most likely bus traveller. Northern Pennsylvania, on a cold, snowy January day, might not seem a likely destination.

Yet the threat of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and its impact on the farm she and John Lennon bought in New York spurred Ono and her son, Sean Lennon, into action. On Thursday the pair, a group of activists and the actress Susan Sarandon formed an improbable troupe for a road trip through towns which have been affected by fracking.

The expedition travelled under the banner of Artists Against Fracking, the group Ono and Lennon set up last summer, when governor Andrew Cuomo was originally due to rule on whether to allow fracking in New York State. Thanks no doubt to the star power of its founders, the group quickly managed to attract backing – from regular celebrity activists such as Sarandon and Mark Ruffalo to Alec Baldwin, the two living Beatles and Robert DeNiro. They also earned the support of the Scissor Sisters.

“It was an incredible response,” Ono said, as the bus picked its way along narrow lanes. “All these artists are starting to come together. These days artists are very much into, and very sensitive to what is happening in society, not just what is happening with their work.”

It was the potential impact of fracking on rural parts of New York State that prompted Lennon and Ono to get involved in the anti-fracking cause last summer. Cuomo eventually delayed his decision, pending further investigation into the practice; he is now due to rule on whether to allow fracking as early as 27 February, following a four-and-a-half year ban.

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Big Oil & Gas…Frack the People

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